As I often do when I’m worried or beset by whatever, I cleaned out a closet the other day. And rediscovered things I’d forgotten: a quilt my mother made me when I married; a quilt my sister quilted from a quilt top my grandmother made. And because my household is a place of some fragility these days, I took them out — remembering my mother and her love of quilting; my grandmother and her love of piecing quilt tops (she cared a LOT less for quilting them!). Now my younger sister sews, quilts, and knits. She is at least the fourth in a line from my great-grandmother on.
Today, thinking of those women (and my reacquaintance with how ephemeral life can be…), I changed bed linens. Substituting my mother’s red, white, & sky blue the colour of robins’ eggs quilt for a white crocheted throw, like a ribbon across the white duvet in the guest room. My mother felt very close.
In the studio, where I have all my beading & paper crafting stored & strewn, I laid the crazy quilt my grandmother pieced over the daybed. When my sister quilted it, she bound the edges w/ a tiny elephant print. My mother loved elephants — once my father had one trucked to the apartment where we lived for her birthday, a tiny baby of an elephant, long-lashed & utterly adorable. It was the best of birthday antics — she laughed & cried, charmed. And I remembered how I am only the latest bead in a necklace of women. My mother, her mother, her mother before her.
That quilt bears pieces from everyday life: each scrap a shirt, a dress, a blouse. Maybe a curtain that once hung from the window of Great-Grandma’s house in a small town an hour away from 4 of her 5 daughters. It bears witness to every day of lives lived a hundred years ago, at least in places.
I also made tea in my favourite teapot — one given me years ago by women I haven’t seen in 25 years. Wreathed in cottage flowers, it sat happily on a silk brocade placemat I only use rarely; it’s ‘too nice’ for everyday use. And I brewed a pot of the Sunday tea — a pricey China black I can’t justify too often.
Here’s where this is going: life is not stone. It doesn’t last. It can blink out like a candle in a sudden gust. What good are our things — these precious pieces that are the traces of happy times, family, places long behind us — if we don’t see them? Use them? Let their very presence remind us of all that they embody…?
I’m going to keep on using up my things. Taking out the linens we bought in Hong Kong before my younger son was born. Making a tea cosy out of my mother’s Army/Navy tablecloth; the one w/ a big hole in the middle. It’s older than I am, and links me to a mother who won dance contests BK (before kids). Life seems very fragile — even ephemeral — to me these days. So I’m surrounding myself w/ all I’ve been to help go wherever it is I’m going to end up. And I shall drink from a china teapot, insulated from the chill March breeze by a tea cosy made from my mother’s past. Watch my rescue cats lounge on handmade quilts stitched in every seam with love. And it will all be okay.